Friday, September 22, 2006

No ticket to ride...

I have a mantra that goes something along the lines of "back right pocket, back right pocket, just remember back right pocket". Or perhaps, it's more like self-hypnosis. Either way, the desired effect is to drum it into my thick-befuddled head that the only way not to lose my parking ticket or, at least, give myself the best possible chance of not losing it, or waste time looking for it, is to always put it in the same place – you guessed it, my back right pocket. Yes, I see you ladies with your enormous purse-bags at Hanoi Towers staring hopefully inside, hoping that the piece of paper that is known as your parking ticket might suddenly be as large and colourful as a flag. I feel your pain. I have a man-bag of my own with a dozen or so pockets I never normally use, though for some reason these infernal tickets always found their way in, before crumpling themselves and playing hide and seek. I've seen you drunken boyos, too, realising you've lost it and deciding there's no point arguing with the stony faced bao ve (parking attendant), so instead you rev up and accelerate through the gate like the Lone Ranger taking off with a "Hi-Ho Silver!" But I've also seen you caught by the scrawny bao ve (you didn't notice those rau muong powered Popeye-muscles on him did you?), de-saddled and berated. I myself have embarrassed myself in parking lots all across the city, shouting that I didn't get a ticket (believing I hadn't) until they "released me". Of course, when I return home and empty my pockets, I come face to face with the elusive, laminated rapscallion of a card and feel more than a tad guilty. Foreigners are the lucky ones, as they probably end up getting away with losing the tickets (either through sweet talk or ranting in incomprehensible Vietnamese), and driving home, albeit a little sheepishly. Vietnamese people would be forced to wait until all the other motorbikes are gone, until the bao ve can finally survey the desolate car park and decide with a fair degree of authority that the 16-year old doe-eyed girl claiming to be the owner of the sole remaining motorbike, who even has the matching pink T-shirt (with I Love U written on it) and the right key to prove it, is not a bare-faced teenage bandit, before allowing her to take the bike home. My simple advice, choose a pocket and stick to it.

By Teddy de Burca Jnr

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